The Heir Hunter

Chris Larsgaard, Author Delacorte Press $23.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-385-33363-4
An unclaimed $22-million estate is up for grabs in first-time novelist Larsgaard's ingenious thriller. Sexy attorney Alex Moreno-the Albany, N.Y.-based partner to former cop Nick Merchant who now specializes in finding heirs to unsettled estates-slips a county deputy attorney a $10,000 bribe to get a sneak preview of four probate files 10 days before the official release date. One of the files contains the mind-boggling multimillion-dollar legacy of Gerald Jacobs, an 87-year-old Hudson, N.Y., recluse who died with no apparent heirs. Since Nick's customary finder's fee averages about 30%, this represents the proverbial jackpot. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no record of the deceased's life earlier than his final three years at the Hudson address, so leads for Nick and Alex are meager. Unaware of clandestine forces working to quash any probe into the dead man's background, the intrepid heir hunters stage a daylight burglary of Jacobs's residence, but are interrupted by a mysterious intruder who shoots a cop investigating the reported break-in. Accused of attempted murder, Nick follows sketchy clues obtained in the burglary and winds up in Germany, where he finds an old lover of Jacobs and learns that the mysterious retiree was part of the FBI's witness protection program. The plot thickens and the chase picks up speed as Nick investigates in Iowa and Geneva. Grim reminders of the Holocaust and Swiss bankers' collusion with the Nazis--plus a sobering look at federal agencies operating outside the law--are well drawn, as is an artful undercurrent of sexual tension. If one forgives a brief lapse in the middle of the story that gives a bit too much plot away, and sporadic missteps from the fledgling author's earnest tendency to overwrite, this fine debut oozes authenticity and provides a fascinating glimpse into the quixotic and dangerous realm of high-stakes ""assets recovery."" 20-city satellite tour. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
Ebook - 283 pages - 978-0-307-57470-1
Mass Market Paperbound - 448 pages - 978-0-440-23462-3
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